Originally Posted by Futuristic
Oh, geez. You're not one of those bleeding heart liberals, are you???
I have to say, while the OLPC program looks
good and noble on its face, I'm not convinced of its effectiveness. Perhaps I'm overly cynical, but programs like this tend to benefit the people who run them more than the people they're ostensibly designed to serve.
I work with poor, rural communities on a daily basis, and I can tell you, technology is not the path to "salvation". The trouble with people who run OLPC and similar programs, is they have no concept of the importance and relevance of culture. They generally think, "If these poor people could see how AWESOME
Western society and values are, they'll immediately see the light and turn their lives around, and poverty will disappear!" This is a very naïve and colonialist attitude.
The truth is, there's a lot
of money to be made buy creating technologies ostensibly designed to serve the poor. The companies that build the hardware will gain significant "positive" exposure in the press for their generosity, and will probably also get a lot of subsidies/grants/donations for the program, so it won't cost them very much at all to build the OLPCs. Microsoft also gets more exposure by becoming the de facto OS environment, so it's certainly in their interest to support such a program as well. The trouble is, those technologies are so far outside the cultural paradigm in which poor communities exist and function, that once the people who run the program leave, the technology is abandoned by the communities. I've seen high-tech water pumps break down, because the parts for them are so specialized that they can't be maintained locally. I've seen solar panels stripped for partsthe metal frames, wiring, etc., are useful in other applications. The same would be true with distributing laptops to poor, rural communities. It's simply not a sustainable investment, and doesn't fit into the cultural paradigm.
The best and most effective way to serve the poor is to work within their cultural paradigm to help them gain a sense of dignity, a sense of empowermentthen, if they
find their own need for computers, they can ask
for them. But it has to be their
First: I have never been called a bleeding heart liberal!
Second: I have owned a business and made a payroll.
Third: I believe that I have an obligation to share some of the successes I have had -- and help others in the ways I can.
The OLPC project was one of good intentions -- but soon became moribund with politics, egos, special interests.
I have seen slums in Bed-Sty, Detroit, Lima, Torremolinos, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, and the homeless in the streets and parks all over the USA...
I do not pretend to have the answers!
Back to OLPC!
What I would like to see is a foundation to bring the benefits of technology * to the poor. IMO, that means take a hot product, in demand, and find a way for the underprivileged to exploit that demand to gain dignity and self-sufficiency.
* to some the benefits of technology might be a meal, a vaccine -- to others it may be a job, an education, an opportunity to improve their life.
I agree that there will always be others that divert the benefits to their own ends.
However, that doesn't mean you don't try.
I say that the abilities that can produce an iPad at a cost of $260, can be channeled to address the issues of the underprivileged.
For example, hire some of them
and ask them what
needs to be done, and how
-- to improve their lot. Let them
, with some guidance, design the solutions
-- with the opportunity to fail, and learn from their failure.
Then go back again and try until they succeed.
Then take that failure/success experience
and make it into a deliverable
that can be tailored and massively and efficiently deployed.
I believe that, done properly, technology can help the underprivileged -- maybe introducing manufacturing and jobs where there were none is a good first step! But that is not enough, there must be a second, third step... potential for growth and self-realization.
You help the poor by working with them -- not becoming one of them!